As the college season winds down, the pre-draft process is kicking into gear. That means intense film study has begun and players are starting to stand out.
A few prospects in particular have impressed me recently. The five players below -- listed in order of their current Scouts Inc. grade -- show the potential to rise up the board as the process unfolds, culminating with draft weekend in late April.
Oregon DE Dion Jordan (Grade: 93)
Scouts will clearly be enamored with Jordan's long frame (6-foot-6⅛, 239), and he has the athleticism to show well in pre-draft workouts. In addition, his tape shows a player who can line up across the front seven, rush from a two- or three-point stance, and hold up well in space.
He could add some bulk to his frame, but Jordan still has explosive upper-body power. He dealt with a nagging shoulder injury late in the season, but he's an impact player when healthy and should have time to heal before Oregon's Fiesta Bowl date with Kansas State and a trip to the Senior Bowl.
Jordan is already in the first-round mix and could work his way into the top half of the first before all is said and done.
Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson (Grade: 90)
Richardson is the only non-senior on this list and has already announced his intention to enter the draft, and after scouts dig into his film he should start making a move.
I saw Richardson in person when the Tigers played at South Carolina and it was one of the better performances I saw all season. He has impressive quickness and agility for a 6-2⅞, 290-pounder, along with quick hands and a nonstop motor.
Richardson continued to play hard all season even as his team struggled, continuing to produce and disrupt along the interior. His closing burst, lateral movements and overall athleticism are solid, and he should test well during workouts. Richardson will likely challenge other highly rated defensive tackles for first-round positioning.
NC State QB Mike Glennon (Grade: 87)
He has some limitations in terms of athleticism but knows how to buy time in the pocket, and his size (6-7¼, 225) and arm strength are already turning heads. The Senior Bowl sets up as the perfect stage for showing off his arm, and Glennon can also use that forum and the interview process at the NFL combine to emphasize his intangibles.
He looks like a Day 2 prospect to me, but given the overall weakness of the quarterback class and his combination of tools, it won't surprise me if Glennon works his way into the back end of the first round when the draft rolls around.
Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton (Grade: 80)
Wheaton doesn't have ideal size (5-11.5, 182), but he does have track-star speed that should stand out during workouts and all-star showcases. His top gear is elite, allowing Wheaton to stretch the field vertically on the outside and ruin pursuit angles after the catch.
He struggled some in the season finale against Oregon, but Wheaton's overall body of work in 2012 is impressive. He caught 13 touchdown passes and is very smooth when tracking the ball vertically.
Wheaton reminds me of Pittsburgh Steelers WR Mike Wallace, who put himself on the map at the Senior Bowl with his elite speed. The same could happen for Wheaton, who has a chance to get himself into the latter part of the second round.
Kent Sate OT/OG Brian Winters (Grade: 79)
Winters flew under the radar playing in the MAC, but he had a very solid season. He is not a great athlete and is likely better suited to playing guard at the next level, but I like his strength, balance and footwork. Winters (6-3⅞, 302) is a major reason the Golden Flashes averaged 223-plus yards rushing per game.
He will have a chance at the Senior Bowl to show what he can to against other top-flight prospects, and a strong week there could help Winters work his way into the second round before all is said and done.